RVers, by plan, are nearly always in some new location or area. They regularly need local information that is typically hard-to-find. For example, how do you easily find…
- an RV park close to Bigfork, Montana
- a barbeque restaurant in Unadilla, Georgia
- a RV dealer in New Jersey
- a dentist in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada?
You have almost instant access to more information than ever before. Using a computer or cell phone with an Internet connection, you can easily locate massive amounts or a single piece of information on virtually any subject. A common, easy, free, powerful, and fast tool with which to find this information is known as “Google™.” If you are on the Internet, using Google will provide you with websites or files in which you can likely find the information you need. It is a “search engine” and it’s just sitting there waiting for you.
As a student, did you ever go to the library to search for information—a book title, location, or data—but couldn’t find it? Did you ask the librarian? If so, they likely located it for you. Even if your information was not in that library, the librarian could find other places that had it. Using a “library loan” system, the information could be sent and you would eventually receive it.
[Note: Google is a website designed to help you search for information on the Internet. Access it at . Then, type in your search words, click on “Google Search,” and view the results almost instantly.]
Using Google is like using an extremely fast and efficient librarian—just tell it what you need. But Google is much more than a simple word or data search. It will make your life easier by offering other searching options that are efficient, fast, accurate, and perfect for RVers. The next time you need some information, just “Google it.” Read on and try the various quick exercises suggested below.
The Main Page
Go to the Google website . The “Search Box” is where you type search words or numbers. You will likely find this “box” at the top of each page in your web browser. For now, type “campground” in the search box and click on the “Google Search” button or hit the Enter/Return key. Your search results identify websites and documents that contain the word “campground.” Obviously, there are lots of them. To access these, just click on the respective blue link.
“Case” doesn’t matter. Google does not consider uppercase letters. For example, searching for “nasa” will give the same results as “NASA.” Disregard punctuation and capitalization when typing in your search terms.
Now, let’s look at other options. Your results page may show “Sponsored Links”—in the right side of the window and some with a colored background at the top of the listing on the page. These entities pay a fee to Google to have their respective listings show up on this first page—it is pure advertising from companies selling something. I rarely use these.
The non-paid search results are on the left and posted by relevance. Searching for a single word is straightforward—the result must contain that search word—like “campground.”
Phrases require Google to organize the results. For example, do a search for “Florida Camping Association.” The results are posted based on various combinations of the search words since Google cannot locate that exact phrase. Separate the important search words/phrases with a comma. Two-word names (like New Jersey) are always searched together, i.e., no comma. The more descriptive/specific you are, the better the results. For example, try these. Just type in…
- “rv park” (there are too many returns on this), so now try…
- “rv park, mt” (we could have used the word “montana” here), and then…
- “rv park, bigfork, mt” (notice how we are narrowing down the search criteria), and finally…
- “woods rv park, bigfork, mt” (assume you remember a partial name).
What did you get? Granted, your search result wasn’t in downtown Bigfork but Woods Bay is very close. It works and it’s easy. Plus, you don’t need lots of specific information to try this search—you don’t have to be exact!
More Useful Pages
Just above the Google search box you will see other options. Type the word “campground” in the search box again. Now click on “Images.”
This search option identifies illustrations (photos and drawings) on the Web that use the word “campground” in their file names. If you need a specific photo for your RV newsletter or your grandchild needs to illustrate a science project, Google will find these images.
[Author Note: Images and all written or drawn content fall under copyright privilege regardless of whether you see the copyright symbol or not. You must be aware that using copyrighted information is illegal without permission. Websites offering images will typically state either that it is illegal or that permission is granted to use the respective images.]
What Else Can You Do?
Let’s look at some not-so-obvious-but-really-helpful things Google can do to help RVers. First, click on the “Web” option, on the left above the search box. This takes us back where we started. There are other extremely handy Google functions you can easily use that are, well, sort of hidden under this “Web” option. Let’s look at some of these…
Definitions… To define a word, type (in the search box) “define,” then a colon, and then the word you want defined. Do not use quotes or spaces and it should look like this:
Hit “Enter” and Google will retrieve definitions and display those sources. Google will also search the definition of a phrase. Try these test searches:
Questions… Ask Google a question—just type it in the search box. For example, suppose you want to know the number of students enrolled at the University of North Texas? Complete sentences don’t count here! Type in this:
number of students enrolled in the university of north texas
number of students enrolled at unt
This type of search is best for “fact-based” questions—those with a specific answer such as:
how many campgrounds allow pets
diesel fuel prices, az
With this option, practice shortening the question. But, too short just won’t work either. For example, “number of students enrolled at unt” could be “number of students at unt” and you get similar results. However, when shortened to “students at unt,” the results were not usable. You must play (practice) with your wording and when one phrase does not result in what you need, try a bit of editing.
Calculator… Google has a built-in calculator. Just enter your simple calculation in the search box. Try one of the following sample expressions:
Use the “+” for addition, “-” (hyphen) for subtraction, “*” (shift-8) for multiplication, and the “/” (slash) for division. Do not use quotes or spaces. Lengthier expressions can be used. However, you must be able to write the expression correctly to obtain the correct results. This is another of those pesky reasons you should have paid attention in math class.
You can also get math answers via a question format. For example:
what is 5 percent of 200 (or just: 5 percent of 200 or 5% of 200)
liters in 22 gallons.
Search by Number… Specialized numbers can be searched for quick access to information. For example, RVers regularly have their mail forwarded. We use UPS Stores to receive ours. Typing a UPS tracking number into Google’s search box will provide a link to the current delivery status of your package. Here are some special number searches.
UPS tracking numbers
FedEx tracking numbers
USPS tracking numbers
Example: 9999 9999 9999 9999 9999 99
Vehicle ID (VIN) numbers
Telephone area codes
Addresses and Phone Numbers… Use Google to find street addresses and publicly-listed phone numbers in the USA for a residence. Use any of these combinations:
- first name (or initial), last name, city (state optional)
- first name (or initial), last name, state
- first name (or initial), last name, area code
- first name (or initial), last name, ZIP code
Google does “reverse” searches (called “lookups”). Type in a phone number (with area code) and Google will find the listing (by name) if possible. You may use hyphens when typing a phone number or leave them out.
Search by Name… Generic or specific types of businesses can be entered into the search box. For example, try the following:
- restaurants, unadilla, ga
- barbeque (or bbq) restaurants, unadilla, ga
Google has become a permanent part of most browser windows and if you are on the Internet, it is sitting there, waiting to help. Develop the habit of using Google. Doing so will make your work more efficient—whether writing a message to a friend, helping your grandchild locate information, searching for an RV park, or wanting to go eat after parking your RV. After all, you never know when you may need a BBQ restaurant in Unadilla, Georgia, a post office in Sopchoppy, Florida, or a barber in Cut and Shoot, Texas.